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Once upon a time, in a county, not too far away, there lived chemical cooties in people’s well water. Presented for your consideration is the curious case of Lee County, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and some interesting water ingredients called Hexavalent Chromium, better known as Chromium 6 and its ugly cousin Vanadium. 

Many years ago, people thought state government was responsible for protecting the health of its citizens from things that go bump in the drinking water. This quaint notion is no longer operative in our brave new world of deregulating polluters and campaign contributors. 

Recall Flint, Michigan’s, chunky style lead-infused drinking water. North Carolina is not letting Michigan get ahead of us in the burgeoning field of water pollution for fun and profit. Duke Energy had a little accident in 2014, in which zillions of tons of coal ash dumped itself into the Dan River. Duke is going to scoop up that coal ash and dump it in Lee County in some old quarries. To get a baseline of the quality of pre-coal ash dump well water in Lee County, the state did some testing on local wells. “Surprise, surprise,” as Gomer would say. The State’s test results showed about 14 wells were contaminated with Hexavalent Chromium which has been shown to cause cancer. 

Here the story gets murky and governmental fingers begin to point. The Lee County Health Department says it relied on the N.C. Health Department instructions about Chromium 6 when it sent letters to local residents not to drink or cook with the water due to polluting cooties. This created anxiety and unpleasantness. After a while, the N.C. Health Department backed off its warning not to drink the water using the colorful but unreassuring reasoning that other cities in the state had levels of Chromium 6 equal to Lee’s water. Lee residents viewed this as a flip flop by the state about their health. They are not convinced the water is now suddenly safe. 

N.C.’s State Health Director was quoted in the news about the reversal of fortune for the drinking water saying, “ We’re not really backing off recommendations. We’re just evolving as we always do in public health as we receive more information.” 

This statement wins this week’s prize for Governmental Double Speak. Cancer doesn’t metastasize, it just evolves. So now the water is okay to drink. Big Brother’s Double Speak tells me so. What was once double plus ungood is now double plus good. 

The State’s reversal on Chromium 6 reminds me when our beloved sainted President Ronald Reagan once declared “Ketchup is a vegetable” to lower the costs of school lunches. Chromium 6 is a tasty treat. The state magically fixed Lee’s water by Proclamation Incantation. Lee County still has a public relations problem regarding its water. Time to turn a negative into a positive through the power of advertising. The Acme Advertising Agency has come up with a campaign to switch toxic Hexavalent Chromium into exciting and daring Chromium 666 by rebranding Lee County water an energy drink that will make you glow in the dark. 

Acme’s Chromium 666 campaign has been leaked, which I now share with you, gentle readers. The following slogans will appear soon on bottled Lee County water featuring its secret ingredient Chromium 666: If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the Chromium 666. Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink without Chromium 666. Have a Chromium 666 and a smile. Things go better with Chromium 666. The cold, crisp taste of Chromium 666. Great taste, almost zero carcinogens — Chromium 666. I’d like to buy the world a Chromium 666. Chromium 666, melts in your cells, not in your hand. Chromium 666: Have it our way. Silly rabbit, Chromium 666 is for kids. Chromium 666, it’s magically delicious. Chromium 666 is good to the last drop. The best part of waking up is Chromium 666 in your cup. Promise her anything, but give her Chromium 666. Sometimes you feel like a Chromium 666, sometimes you don’t. We do Chromium 666 right. Chromium 666 is forever. Come thirsty, leave mutated with Chromium 666. When you’ve said Chromium 666, you’ve said it all. Chromium 666, it tastes great, less living. We will sell no Chromium 666 before its time. Lee County water: the champaign of Chromium 666. Like a bad neighbor, Chromium 666 is here. Chromium 666, it cleans your intestines as it cleans your clock. 

Bad old Hexavalent Chromium is flushed down the memory hole. Exciting new Chromium 666 not only is good for you, but it’s good for campaign contributors. This is an election year after all. Drink up! 

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